They’re an abhorrent, racist, fascist organisation. Although they claim the title “English Defence League”, I’m sure we’re all aware by now that they stand solely as an anti-Muslim group.
There are some who suggest that we should ignore them and then maybe they’ll go away:
“How do we respond to the EDL? What is a good Mancunian response? We strongly believe that the best thing to do is to simply ignore them.”
It would be nice if this were true, but the reality is that the EDL are a hate group of fascist bully-boys (accompanied by more serious criminal elements), and the idea of them marching through a city as vibrant and proudly multicultural as Manchester unchallenged is truly sickening.
Ignoring a group like this is often seen as tacit support – it’s happened before, in places like Bradford, Oldham and Luton.
Ignore the fascists and their support grows.
“It has been proven that when fascist & racist groups are ignored, this merely causes an increase in Islamophobia and fascist violence
Manchester is a great multicultural city with a tradition of championing rights; we don’t want to stand by and watch racists bused in from outside Manchester”
- Tony Wilson, UNISON
“The fascist movement grows in times of crisis; the EDL is small today only because we have consistently moved to oppose them”
- Mike, Greater Manchester Unite Against Fascism
Furthermore, as a proud Mancunian, I couldn’t stand idly by and allow strangers to walk through my city and chant hate at my fellow residents without letting my Muslim neighbours know that we do not agree with them.
So I marched with Unite Against Fascism, against the EDL.
“This is the most amazing multicultural city I have ever lived in [...] the politics of hope must defeat and outlast the politics of hate and the EDL”
- Charlotte Smith, SWP
“Manchester is a wonderful and diverse city, yet in Albert Square a minority of stupid people are preaching their repulsive, narrow minded bigoted ideology. This is our city; they have no right to be here”
- Chris Rea, Manchester NUJ
When we first arrived at Albert Square, and the 350-400 strong UAF contingent was penned opposite a large enclosure which swamped the 30 or so local EDL supporters, I must admit that I did start thinking that maybe ignoring the EDL would be a workable option…
As several hundred more EDL fascists arrived, chanting hate, waving anti-Islamic slogans and burning Pakistani flags, I reverted to my earlier opinion.
These aren’t just people I disagree with, people who are ‘a bit anti-immigration’.
They’re fascist thugs – desperate to find someone to blame for their own misfortune, and even more desperate to find someone to fight (which, throughout the day, manifested as fighting one another).
If we ignore them, they aren’t going to go away. They’re going to attack our fellow citizens for the ‘crime’ of being Muslims. Or of looking like Muslims.
As the photos show, the EDL membership seems to be made up of either men in their 50s or young boys, and very little between. It’s quite easy to see the older men grooming the younger (in a This is England way, hopefully; not in a Jimmy Savile way…); building a new generation of hate from the ashes of the old racist football hooligans and National Front groups.
I live in what is now a largely Muslim community; my neighbours are friendly and profoundly Mancunian. They fly flags of St. George during World Cup season, and many speak Urdu and Farsi with Manc accents.
I have seen no creeping tide of Islamic extremism – only a gradual building of community that actually wasn’t there in pre-immigration days.
Children now play cricket in a park that used to belong to drug dealers. Boarded-up shop windows have been replaced by local businesses.
But even if none of that were true, if I had no experience of living amongst Muslims, I hope I’d still oppose the EDL. Attacking a minority for the actions of extremists is wrong (it would be like blaming all white people for the actions of the EDL).
And because once fascists have finished with one minority group, they inevitably find another to target – that’s how they operate.
Eventually, the minority is someone you care about. Or you.
“Speaking out against fascism is the right thing to do.
We care that our fellow Mancunians are being targeted – targeted not because they’re a threat; Muslims are targeted by the EDL because that’s what racists do.
Not here. Not in Manchester.”
- Daniel Gillard, Labour Councillor (Withington)
The EDL are clearly in their death throes, and it’s tempting just to sit back and wait for them to disappear; but they won’t, not entirely. They’ll rebrand, splinter and eventually reform under a different banner (or several different banners), and begin gathering support again.
Which is why we must oppose fascism whenever and wherever we see it, or we may not have a chance to oppose it at all.